Sunday, October 30, 2011

Running Silent

Discovered on my run today an unexpected plus to barefoot running... how incredibly quiet it is.

I've always been a fairly quiet runner, even before with my uber-heel strike.  I think landing light is the only thing that has let me get away with running this long with my arthritis.  Today, without shoes, it was... silence.  And it was... amazing.

I took a minute, and I turned off my iPod (my constant running companion).  All I could hear were the leaves rustling on the pavement, a crow calling, and my own breathing.  There was a light tap, tap, tap when my Vibrams hit the pavement.  When I took them off, just quiet.  Running along I was able to get within arms reach of a turkey.  Got a much different reaction from the local wildlife than I usually do, or see other runners get, smacking down the pavement.  Squirrels kind of looked at me, decided I wasn't a threat, and went on collecting their food for the winter.  It was a pretty amazing way to feel like part of nature, even in urban Minneapolis.

Another observation I had about my own form... as I got tired, I started to hear a "scuff, scuff" as my feet landed.  A big sign that I was getting tired and my form was slipping... I was no longer making those light, quick touches with the ground, and this is probably about the time when I start developing some good blisters.  Luckily, I recognized it early, corrected my form, and made it home with no ugly-buglies on my feet.  Will definitely be turning my iPod off and listening to my feet on occasion as a way to check in on myself.

More to come in the next few days, thoughts on shoes, etc.  With it getting colder, I suspect I'll need to be wearing shoes on my run a bit more often.  I'll give you an idea what shoes I have now and how I like them.  And of course, shoes, in general.  Because really, what's barefoot running without an obsession about shoes? :)

It was a little chilly out today, but once my feet warmed up, it wasn't bad.  A couple of obnoxious passer-bys who couldn't help but point out that it was cold and I was going to catch my death, but I could have pointed that out about their cigarrettes. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Things I learned from doing it wrong...

As I've mentioned, I started running barefoot this past spring.  I took some time off, and have just really started running again.  After my first run back, I had some thoughts about what I learned this spring and why this time will be different:

1.  When they say start small, yes, they are talking to YOU.  And they mean it.

After I went for my first 1/4 mile barefoot run, I had so much fun, I decided I was going to go out and be a barefoot runner.  Pretty quick I was up to 3-4 miles barefoot or in my huaraches (more on shoes to come in the near future).  Subsequently, I ended up with feet that looked like they had been through a meat grinder, and 10 days in a boot to heal up tendonitis.  Your feet are weaker than you think, after years in regular shoes.  I've been either barefoot or in minimalist shoes all the time since, but not running.  Just walking, going around my daily routine, and my feet are MUCH stronger than they were. 

2.  If it hurts, STOP.

This was probably my most important lesson, and the one that was the hardest for me to learn.  I've run a bunch of marathons (albeit not recently), and am used to pushing through pain and discomfort.  "My feet hurt" was not a valid reason for me to cut a perfectly good run short.  Hence, the 10 days in a boot, hobbling around and unable to run.  It's a different kind of "listen to your body" than marathoning is.  I know when I'm running a marathon it's all "ignore the pain, push through those last few miles".  Barefooting, it's more like "oh crap, I'm a block in and my feet are cramping, time to stop."  And that does NOT make me a wuss.  That makes me a smart runner.  Accepting that stopping early is not a sign of weakness has been really tough for me.

3.   Blisters suck, but they'll tell you a lot.

I blistered.  I blistered like crazy.  But those blisters taught me important things... like the fact that I was pushing off, rather than quickly lifting my feet off the ground.  Take care of your blisters, learn from them, and most importantly, don't run your feet raw.  You'll be out of commission for several days and you WON'T be happy.

So, I guess, mainly what I've learned is "go slow, have fun, and listen to your body".  Pretty much exactly what experienced barefooters had been telling me.  :)  My feet are stronger now, and my last run went well and was a blast.  As I move forward, I'm hoping to learn new things that I can share with you to make your barefoot experiences better. 

You may be asking "If you got hurt, had pain, and blistered your feet, why are you trying again?".  Here's the interesting part...  I have degenerative arthritis in my knees.  Pretty bad.  Kills me after a long enough run in my cushioned trainers.  I hobble on stairs on a regular basis.  I have NOT experienced knee pain during or after any of my barefoot runs.  None.  It's pretty amazing.  And if barefooting will keep me on the roads and extend my running life, well heck, I'm willing to give it a hell of a go.  I don't know if it will work, if it was coincidence or truly that the barefoot mechanics work that much better with my knees, but I intend to find out.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stepping Out...

A few months ago, I discovered Barefoot Running, and became quite fascinated.  Really?  What WERE these crazy people doing without shoes.  But what the heck, it's free, so it's worth a shot, right?

After a few false starts, crazy summer, and unrelated hip issue later, I decided to get off my couch, get out there, and get running again.

One thing I've noticed in the last few months of researching and reading about barefoot running, is that there are very few women barefooters.  Why is that?  And those that I did find, were these perfect, tiny, Barbie-like Boston-qualifying ladies.  While I look up to them, I'll never be there.  Where were all the "normal" ladies like me, out there plodding along in their bare feet?  I've seen lots of women like me out doing marathons, but in our big, clunky, heavy cushioned trainers.

I want to see what happens when a typical, overweight, injury-prone, 5 hour marathoner goes out and tries barefooting.  Will it be the "miracle cure" I keep hearing about for my ailments?  Will I find that I'm just too much woman to plod along unprotected on the pavement?  All I know is that so far, I'm finding a wonderful childlike joy in my bare feet hitting the pavement, crunching through fallen leaves and puddles.

Just watch out for those acorns.  Trust me.